Monday, June 16, 2014

Italian Cream Cake

    If you have never had an Italian Cream Cake, you have seriously been missing out in the world of cakes. It is a fluffy and moist cake with coconut, lots of egg yolks mixed and egg whites folded, and a gentle sweet vanilla undertone. It is topped with coconut, pecans, cream cheese frosting that could stop anyone dead in their tracks; not because it is difficult to make and uses extremely impressive skills, but only because those three things together create heaven. 
      Although the name suggests this cake is of Italian dissent, it is actually a traditional southern cake. However, the specific origins are not really known. It also goes by "Italian Wedding Cake" at times, but again, I do not know the story behind this. It seems as the cake has migrated across the country, its name shifted sometimes.
      My favorite part is the texture created by the coconut. Although this cake often calls for shredded, sweetened coconut, I opted for this finely shredded, unsweetened version. Since the cake was coated with a generous and decadent frosting, as well as possessing its own richness, I did not want to make it overly sweet by using sweetened coconut. Also, I find the long shredded coconut often to be prone to dominating the texture of the cake into a stringy mess. For such a delicate cake, I wanted something finer. This allowed for a pleasant texture, plenty of added moister and the flavor of the butter, eggs and plain sugar in the cake to speak for themselves in relation to the coconut. 
       Although this cake isn't something you see on ever bakery shop counter, I promise you it is so worth making at home! If you really want to go fancy for a dinner party, birthday or occasion with it, I really encourage you to make or buy a caramel sauce to drizzle over top. The pairing of flavors is an absolute favorite of mine.
Adapted from The Pioneer Women's "Billie's Italian Cream Cake"
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 C canola oil
1 C sugar
5 whole eggs, separated
2 TSP vanilla
1 TSP almond extract (or substitute one additional TSP vanilla)
1 1/3 C finely shredded, unsweetened coconut
2 C all-purpose flour
1 TSP baking soda
1/2 TSP baking powder (high altitude)*
       OR 1 TSP baking powder (sea level)
1 C buttermilk

Frosting: This make a seriously GENEROUS amount of frosting. You can make 2/3 of the recipe for a more standard frosting batch, have leftover frosting for some cupcakes or something, or just load up the cake. That is what I did, but I am not being dramatic, it will be a lot of frosting. 
2 (8 ounce) packages full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick butter, room temperature
2 TSP vanilla
1 (2 lb.) package powdered sugar
1 1/4 C chopped pecans
1 1/3 C finely shredded, unsweetened coconut

1. Preheat the oven 350F and grease and flour 2 9" round cake pans.
2. Beat the 5 egg whites to stiff peaks
3. In the bowl of stand mixer, beat together the sugar, butter, and oil. Add in the egg yolks, one at a time and mix on medium speed until incorporated. Add in the extracts and coconut and mix until incorporated.
4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and sugar.
5. Alternating and starting and ended with the flour, add in the buttermilk and dry ingredients (flour, buttermilk, flour, buttermilk, flour). Do not over mix. Scrape down the sides between additions and beat until just incorporated.
6. Using a rubber spatula, add a generous spoonful of the whipped egg whites to the batter and fold them in. Then add the rest and fold them in a wide sweeping motion as to not collapse the air created in whipping.
7. Divide the batter between the pans and bake for 20-25 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
1. In a large bowl, beat the butter for 30 seconds on medium speed. Cut the cream cheese into smaller pieces and it to the butter and continue to beat the mixture until the two have fully combined. Beat in the vanilla extract. 
2. Adding 1-2 C at a time, beat in the powdered sugar (sifting if necessary to break up large clumps before hand). Once all the powdered sugar is incorporated, add in the pecans and coconut and beat until they have spread evenly throughout the mixture.
1. If you want the cake to last longer, I encourage you to use simple syrup brushed over top. I always keep a bottle on hand for cake. It is equal parts water and sugar (1C:1C) sugar and water, heated in a pot until the sugar is dissolved. If you do use this, brush simple syrup onto the layers and then begin assembly.
2. Once the cake has fully cooled, place the first cake layer down, and scoop a very generous amount of frosting onto the cake and spread it evenly over the layer.
3. Place the second cake puck on top and repeat. Frost the sides of the cake. Enjoy!

   Boulder Butter

Monday, June 9, 2014

Berries and Cream Pie Bars

      I thought after having graduated from college, summer would slightly fall in its excitement levels. I figured when I no longer had the pure bliss of finishing a year of strenuous mental work and serious stress balancing skills in sight, summer would just drift in without a major wave of happiness. However, I am finding a certain overwhelming joy with the world right now, and summer has not lost any of its excitement. Trips to see family and explore new places are in planning, there is camping to be done and I just can't help but want to be outside and do more with my days when the sun wakes up and hangs out with me longer.
        Part of summers serious bliss though, is the return of summer produce and farmers markets. I don't know if you guys have been eating fistfuls of blueberries too, but I can't seem to get enough.
        These bars are packed with blueberries, mildly sweet crumbles and crust, and a creamy blending of those two things brought together by some fruity yogurt. If you live in Colorado, I sincerely hope you have tried Noosa yogurt (if you don't live here, I know it is becoming increasingly available around the country). It is the most creamy, delicious, heaven sent yogurt and it is the perfect accompaniment to bring a mildly sweet and flavorful velvetiness to middle of these bars.
        They make a delicious snack, a tasty dessert topped with ice cream, or in the morning, use a little bit more of that yogurt to top for an easy breakfast. They are good at room temperature, but I absolutely loved them cold out of the fridge! It made them super refreshing for the hot summer days.
Note: If you don't have Noosa, as the recipe notes, any full-fat, flavored Greek yogurt will do.
3/4 c sugar
1 tsp baking powder
2 C all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c old fashion rolled oats
1/2 tsp salt
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 egg

4 c fresh blueberries
1/2 c sugar
3 tsp cornstarch
2 large eggs
1 c (8 ounces) full-fat Greek raspberry yogurt (or sub other flavor, I think lemon would be awesome!)
       ---I recommend Noosa Yogurt if you can get your hands on it!
Juice and zest of 1 lemon

1. Grease a 9x13 pan and preheat the oven to 375F
2. For the crust: in the bowl of a food processor, combine the sugar, baking powder, flour, 1 cup of the oats, and salt. Pulse a few times.
3. Cut the butter into cubes and add it to the food processor. Pulse a few times until the mixture resembles a course crumble with pea sized clumps. Add the egg and pulse a few more times to incorporate. It will still have a crumbly texture.
4. Divide the crumbs in half and pour one half into the base of the greased baking dish. Press it down and around the sides to create a thick and even layer. Set the rest aside.
5. For the filling: Mix together the sugar, blueberries and cornstarch in a medium bowl and set aside. Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, yogurt, and lemon juice and zest.
6. Pour the blueberries over the top of the crust and spread evenly. Pour the yogurt mixture over the berries, making sure it reaches all over the dish to the corners.
7. Top the berries with the second half of the crumbles, scattering them about in cover the entire dish. Finally, sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/2 C oats.
8. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the top has a slight golden brown. Allow the dish to cool before cutting. They can be served warm, room temp or (my personal favorite) cold from the fridge. Delicious with milk, yogurt or ice cream :)
Bonus: Here you can spot the two cactus I have managed to keep alive for a whole 6 months now! 
 Boulder Butter